FERMENT : MUTTERKORN
I knead and knead the dough
There is room in the stove.
I bake and bake the round loaf;
The little head goes back and forth.
-Old Russian nursery rhyme
The dawn of agriculture goes hand in hand with the invention of the oven, the place
where raw indigestible organic material is transformed into wondrous pillows of
carbohydrate and protein. The oven is a receptacle of transformation: a blank box
with a hidden flame, into which matter is placed and taken out again later at a
prescribed time in entirely different form. With the help of fermenting agents (yeasts),
the material may expand. Or destructive/reductive transformation may occur, as in
the case of cremation. The outcome is often unpredictable and awaited with nervous
anticipation. Complete control is not guaranteed. Glazes of fired pottery may come
out in entirely unexpected colors. Like parents waiting to meet a newborn child, the
cast glass artist hopes that the kiln gives them what they desire.
The oven was central in many ancient societies, particularly those in colder climates
such as the Slavic and Finno-Ugric people. An essential feature of the home, the
massive brick structure often took up as much as one quarter of the entire space of
the house. Beds were situated above the oven to make use of the excess warmth.
An adjacent room was used for bathing (the banja/sauna). As we might expect, this
central position is reflected in the rich folkloric traditions. “The oven is our mother”
(Pech’ nam mat’ rodnaia) states an old Russian proverb. The womb was another
common association. Ethnologist Andreas Johns has pointed out that “East Slavic,
Lithuanian and Latvian riddles suggest an isomorphism or homology between the
cosmos, the human body, the house and the oven”.
In the Slavic practice of “the re-baking of babies” (perepekanie detei), newborn
babies are placed into an oven in order to remove illness or to complete gestation.
The “pere-“ prefix is ambiguous, potentially meaning “to bake again” or “to bake
entirely” or to “bake away” (See the particular German application: “sich verbacken” -
"The butter is already rancid, but that bakes itself." THAT MEANS, the unpleasant
taste is eliminated by the baking process.).
Ritual phrases may be chanted; in some traditions the child’s face is covered with
dough. The pliable infant’s body may be kneaded to correct disfigurations.
For FERMENT:MUTTERKORN, she will stage four sound performances with three
different collaborators. They will widely explore this rich nexus of
baking/birth/emergence/transformation, from ancient birthing rituals to viral Great
British Bake Off disasters and instagrammable homemade organic spelt triumphs.
Performances take place at Heizhaus, Uferstudios. Free entry.
20.11. 20 Uhr Merja Kokkonen and Samin Son: Tendrils
28.11. 20 Uhr Merja Kokkonen solo concert
05.12. 20 Uhr Merja Kokkonen and Tatu Rönkko: Shamanistic rolling pins
17.12. 20 Uhr Merja Kokkonen and Simo Vassinen: Our Mother the Oven
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